Monday, December 28, 2009

The Visitor:

                                                                    ~   Where Flutter our Hearts

     In the first half of the 20th century, people massively fled from European war miseries pursuing peace to a bloodless land where build their golden dreams; professionals, business men, illiterate, poor, sick and orphan embarked along on a “one-way trip”.  Their legacy is a proof of the more advanced perspective of living and willingness to become assimilated than the contemporaneous migrant: since they looked for integration and settling, they could pictured over a grassland plain the potential town where future generations would live. From Quebec to Tierra Del Fuego settled their home in the middle of nowhere and full of hope burned their ships ashore. It  never occurred to them to go back to the land they left behind.

       Migration waves of skeptical of their own government people looking for a better quality life and monetary opportunities that could be harvested in their own life period increasingly happen all around the world. The US and EU are among the most popular destinations propelled perhaps by the side effects of the media.

       Migrations of the modern world system have produced the ethnic and racial diversity that paved the way for multicultural claims; “To a certain degree, liberal states today are necessarily multicultural” states Christian Joppke in his studies on multiculturalism and immigration, adding that Third-World-based immigration waves of the postwar period work as a main force of liberation in the way of multiculturalism.

       Integration or “assimilation”, whose literal meaning is “making alike”, is no longer plausible in contemporary migrations due to a strong disinclination on the part of migrants to abandon national loyalties. Advanced transportation and communication technologies are responsible for migration to become no longer “one-way trips”, which Tzvetan Todorov considered the basis of the classic migrant’s willingness to become “assimilated”. “Even if a physical departure is postponed or abandoned, symbolic returns are plentiful and permanent up to a point where even the sense of having departed at all is lost”, he said.
       Without long-takes and virtuoso camera movements, The Visitor, portraits just one of the hundred of stories of an illegal immigrant who is violently being deported in the most straight, clean cut and simple way.
        Tarek, an immigrant from Syria, has spent years in the US waiting for his political asylum to be accepted. What is unknown to him is that this petition was denied long ago and his mother Mouna, from the old generation if immigrants who bitterly left Syria with no intentions to return, has hidden the deportation letter since he was young. He and his partner Zainab, an immigrant from Senegal, are being illicitly rented the NYCity residence of an aching widower and bored professor of economics whom, at the time of visiting the city, gets surprised to find them sheltering in his property. Out of pity, the proprietor Walter Vale, decides to temporarily host them.
       Palestinian actress Hiam Abbas, who play the role of Mouna, replied in an interview that The Visitor was mainly a story about cultural exchanges. In effect, while the egoistical, fictitious and lifeless external world of Walter Vale stresses out recalling a lost world attempting vainly to master the piano, brightens up when Tarek introduces him the djembe and when getting puzzled in describing the colorful and intricate crafts that Zainab makes for a living. Walter soon attends Tarek’s performances and awkwardly joins the drum circle at Union Square until he’s unfoundedly detained, arrested, shortly held in a detention center and ultimately deported to Syria by US immigration agents. As Tarek ceased calling, his mother Mouna comes from Chicago to voluntarily fly back to Syria after him.
        And what is left from all these psychotic moves other than the djembe at the professor’s apartment? Walter Vale’s pretending life is much like the city itself; cold structured still compassionately sheltering any tenacious passing byes, a life of pretensions, longing on a brilliant past and out of touch with his own emotions, yet actively searching for the proper medium where to canalize its soul material. One of the significant scenes where he unleashes his raw emotions is in the detention center where he is suddenly told that Tarek has been ‘removed’ or deported and no information was available on the matter. “You can’t do this to people, he had a life!” he yells to the agent, and one recalls Mouna when earlier referred to the system resentfully saying “It’s just like Syria”. His impotency against a cruel system jumps out of the screen and possesses the spectator way through the end of the film. No djembe rhythm softens it.
     Tarek, like all immigrant in love with what to come, brings music, new possibilities and flavors with a smile full of hope in which sustains the fragile stability and the move of the world that would be shattered in the detention center.
     Tarek, with no concrete memories of his homeland, never planned going back to Syria and, perhaps because of his illegal condition, never thought about join the mass work force of the US in any way, instead, while being in love with what he brings, his heart was settled in the place where he born. He looks for a place where his imported values be accepted, rather than for his social and cultural differences be assimilated in a way that after melted, faded away and ultimately extinguished.

      The vast majority of the to-day immigrant is not interested in citizenship or any bureaucratic matter; according to Emilio Gonzalez former Director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service. Seeking for a temporary but concrete employment that enables them to sustain their family left behind, they travel with a pocket full of dreams and a promise to come back. But U.S. Immigration Services is interested in naturalizing the prospective voter which heart doesn't fly away.

      Many in the world are like Tarek; after their home country has been dismantled and exposed to the eyes of the world by the war against the Taliban, immigrant orphan Afghans have a difficult time at trying to anonymously be part of the society in order to build a life in the EU. They're too young to think about sponsoring or even supporting the surviving relatives left behind. Instead, they sleep alone on street benches of the City Of Lights dreaming with becoming engineers.

        Others traveled with the promise of a happy family reunion, but between eastern dreams and western life, they’ve got lost in translation, and cast down in on one of the crowdest cities of the world, age in isolation, according to Patricia L. Brown’s article “Nobody To Talk To” for the NY Times. A happy family reunion is a too antiquated dream for the current Californian life-style in which some immigrants became too old to adapt.
         Their hearts surely don't fly anywhere close by.


Thursday, December 24, 2009

Multiculturalism, Migration & Customizing National Identities.


      The French national identity theme that was much of the formula for Sarkozy's popularity which made him won the 2007 elections is brought on debate as to distract citizens from real issues as unemployment and rising budget deficit. Read it here 'Sarkozy returns to his political roots'. According to this article of The New York Times, Eric Besson, the minister of immigration and national identity, just opened three months debate for local government to define “what it means to be French.”. National identity and immigration are high issues in actual France where the largest immigrant community is conformed by Muslims.

       What does significance bring the way you are in the community where you live? I think much of the major problem of the US immigration reform is close linked with identity; the meaning of your identity and its effects on the community where you live.

        We’re naturally inclined to be what life invites us to be and we fit in it as if in a mold; as Ortega Y Gasset states in “The Revolt of The Masses” to describe the ‘mass-man’. [To start with, we are what our world invites us to be, and the basic features of our soul are impressed upon it by the form of its surroundings as in a mould. Naturally, for our life is no other than our relations with the world around. The general aspect which it presents to us will form the general aspect of our own life] (p. 41) And this is valid also when we migrate; when you move your surrounding your different identity is questioned. It seems to be natural that part of your identity suffers shifts when changing communities, ‘A sort of survival’ I heard an American friend to say when her foreign roots got lost in the family generation because of society hostilities at the time. Undoubtedly changing cultures would alter much of what you are, if you don’t, you may have strong reasons to keep tied to your roots and live dissociated and isolated from your surrounding.

        For some communities of diasporic cultures changing identities is never in the agenda forming ‘clusters’ of cultures into the community, the national identity of the adopted community is put into question. When that sub-community grows, cultural differences and social need surface.
Can you be called to be someone whom you don’t represent with your identity? In other words, can you be called to be a citizen of a country which national hymn, laws, culture, history and basic things like this you do not know or reject to assimilate in spite of the years of living there?

    In this study about Cultural Pluralism and Partial Citizenship, Jeff Spinner-Halev, in charge of the Department of Political Science in University of North Carolina goes deep into the problem of multiculturalism and tries to respond to the questions if multiculturalism threatens citizenship. He distinguishes types of multiculturalism: -thick multiculturalism or cultural pluralism, which is given where “the advantage of a society where group membership is prior to citizenship is that groups have a reasonable chance of maintaining a robust version of their identity”. This cluster community seek state funds for group separation as for the state give them support, financial or otherwise, to further their own goals, deeply threaten citizenship since people are not interested in citizenship not in making the state a better place to live. “Even the term ‘fellow citizen’ may strike them as strange. What they have are fellow Jews, or fellow blacks, or fellow Muslims, or fellow Sikhs. Citizen, however, are not their fellows.” -Inclusive multiculturalism; the more typical form, are formed by minority groups pressing for inclusion into the dominant culture, they want to be able to retain some of traditional dress or type of recognition while serving their country. These claims are to ‘expand’ citizenship.

      The United States is a nation made of immigrants: being an immigrant is part of its national identity. The novelty is that the new immigrant is not interested in acquiring citizenship according to the former director of the INS (U.S. Citizenship and Naturalization Service) Emilio Gonzales in an interview for Poder Magazine. Furthermore, the new immigrant finds its own community settled there already, with which he/she identifies, for there is not such a need for adaptation which motivated the immigrant that founded the country.

    On the other hand, on Roxanne Lynn Doty's research about immigration, in "Immigration and National Identity: Constructing the Nation”, says that the identity of a nation is given by the state and is totally constructed. “The identity of a nation will be related to ‘tradition’ and to existing cultural practices, but the decisions as to what is relevant and how it should be used in establishing the national identity will rest with the state" she quotes from John Breuilly in ‘Nationalism and the State’.

       Then, state decisions are a must when giving shape to a national identity of a country.
An example of this could perfectly be when considering the custom of foot-binding (Oops! don't click here if you're too sensitive) that Chinese women practiced and which identified them with a sign of beauty for centuries until it was recently banned for the government. In her book “Snow Flower and the Secret Fan” Lisa See describes its meaning as "Only through pain will you have beauty. Only through suffering will you have peace". This traditional practice of inflicting pain on children very much rooted into the Chinese cultural life ceased to be a symbol of beauty when suddenly the government prohibited its procedure.

      Another example of administrations influencing national identities I believe is clearly confirmed in the actual configuration of Algerian families where the huge communication gap existing between one single generation talks tons about citizens being consistently manipulated by the government of turn, this driven by the educative system.
It begins with occupation and schools designed to train people for a French-run system and the subsequent forced state-sponsored-Arabization after the independence where Egyptian teachers were hired because of a lack of local Arabic educators “not realizing, officials say now, that many of those teachers had extreme religious view and that they helped plant the seeds of radicalism that would later flourish in a school system where Arabization became interchangeable with Islamization” says the article "In Algeria, a Tug of War for Young Minds" of the New York Times.
Because of government management on school system, now Algerian families find few things in common at home; the older generation, trained under French rule, filling out crossword puzzles can’t help their children with their homework because their Arab is poor. Instead, influenced by the current school regime, girls wear velour pants and tops and a large scarf pinned beneath their chin. “Algeria’s young men leave school because there is no longer any connection between education and employment, school officials said. The schools raise them to be religious, but do not teach them skills needed to get a job (...) We say that Algeria’s schools have trained monsters (…) In Algeria your sense of identity often depends on when you went to school" states the source.

    The film "The Battle of Algiers" by Gillo Pontecorvo, which vibrantly documents the struggles for the Algerian independence of 132 years of the French colonial rule through terrorist practices, it underling talks also about struggles of a surviving yet latent native identity.
Pontecorvo portrayed one of the most vile yet desolated ways of regaining freedom through violence, racial intolerance and the abuse of trust.

      Here, purposely, Algerian women change their “identity” by changing their physical aspect westernizing their clothing style, dyeing their hair etc. so they could have free access to the seemingly French occupied region of the city, through the checking points, for then, dynamitize French-habituĂ© centers such as airports and cafes. In This scene, innocence is depicted by the rhythm of Cha-cha-cha, the charm of adolescents and toddlers and the presence of Coca-Cola, shakes and ice creams.
Click here for a full description of how this is accomplished in an 8min film sequence.
You don’t need to know Arab nor French language to understand that the three Algerian women after giving up their veils and changing their identities are being designated for the-to-be dynamited places. That by their new aspect are allowed accessibility to the Parisian city where we notice drastic contrasts between architecture and street customs of both civilizations. As for example, one of the hair dyed Arab women is asked by a French soldier if she’s heading for the beach! An unthinkable activity for the Arab world. And again, the presence of fear on the gesture of the intruder; in this case the Algerians are not immigrants in their own land, but they feel like that in the French occupied part.

      "Now the government is urgently trying to re-engineer Algerian identity, changing the curriculum to wrest momentum from the Islamists, provide its youth with more employable skills, and combat the terrorism it fears schools have inadvertently encouraged.” concludes the NY Times article.

       Customizing national identities by states breaks family unity and the common sense of past.
Concerning human integration and national identity, I'd say that freedom is precious but opaque when deduced from the freedom of others.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Dardenne's, Jacob Riis & Lewis Hine:

 ~ Dens of Death,  
                                   Birds of Prey                          
                                                              &   Loving Darkness 
                                                                                                   Better than Life

     As I was looking for a book, I found a documented recollection of realities of immigrants’ life in the late nineteenth-century in New York City portrayed by the former police reporter and photographer Jacob Riis.

    How bold I’d said if I haven’t learnt that he was raised among these people, now objects of his work. As I was going through the pages, exploring through the deploring working and living conditions of “How The Other Half Lives”, I kept assuring myself if there was any place in the world where they could have came from where they may possibly experienced such precarious living conditions as these, yet chosen by their own will.

     Perhaps, some of the closest descriptive words that can alive these muted scenes could be these of Gregory Christiano on a research about urbanography for The New York Daily Tribune of about the same time and place:
 “Among the places the most crowded in proportion to their actual size, the worst ventilated, and whose mortality is the greatest at all times, are those subterranean abodes which constitute the subject of our remarks, and which we have denominated – for want of a more appropriate term – Dens, Dens of Death; the term “cellar” not 
                                                   conveying a proper idea of the place when used as a residence. [“CELLAR – A room under a house, used as a repository for provision” Webster]. These dens, or man-made caves of the earth, like the natural caves in former times in Africa, often send forth bands of murderers, who live by thieving alone; and the modern Troglodytes, like their prototypes, after a successful expedition, return to their dark recesses to divide their spoil and plan a new scheme of depredation.
Darkness, therefore, would appear to have been from the earliest times one of exciting causes of crime, and our modern policemen see it is so now. We heard a worthy Alderman once say that plenty of gaslight in the streets would go far to exterminate wickedness of all kinds. Whether darkness be a cause of crime or not, it is certain that murderers, thieves, etc. “love darkness better than light,” and that there is more propriety of deportment found in a good, honest abode above-ground, fully open to the light of day, than in dark under-ground residences and caverns, which in a state of nature are inhabited only by beasts of prey.
But we have not undertaken to consider the relative state of morals of Subterraneans and of the “Upper Ten,” such as live on the surface of the earth; we shall, therefore, pass to the subject of the consideration of the physical effects of living in these damp and stifling abodes of darkness.”
     Isn't it described here what a dungeon is, so to speak?.
     And about decease in dens he adds; “These places are always damp, and are thus a continued source of various inflammatory diseases; indeed the occupants of them are always sick in a never-ending rotation, and demands for medical services are more frequent by the inhabitants of dens, than by such as live on the surface, in proportion to their number. Sickness among the poor is always great and in the damp and badly ventilated abodes we are considering, is more protracted, beside being more fatal, than above ground, so that if life is prolonged it is too frequently an existence of helpless misery.”

   Well, his complete research is rich and exciting but I was moved to ask me more and more the now most obvious question; what kept this immigrant people alive? And I strongly wished someone to enlightened me.

 Another series of photographs, of a more recognizable type of living, about the European immigrant arriving at Elli’s Island and the hardships of living in slum buildings in America of about the same time were portrayed by Lewis Hine of a slight up level on social class; the tenement. All scenes are reminiscent of impressionist paintings as "Boy picking Cotton” and “Shucking Oysters” from the county life are heartbreaking; he still finds beauty in the poor “with hope”.

     Extreme poverty or such a strong need that compels us to move to unfamiliar places that forces us to fight against of all kind of hostilities in order to pursue our dreams can be understood. 
What I think it’s difficult to understand is the acceptance of the miserable soul state that such eager pursing can often leads us. In a sense, I think this is exactly what the Dardenne brothers intended to point out when they wrote the Cannes awarded best screenplay 2008 for their latest film Lorna's Silence in Italy better translated to "Lorna's Marriage".   There, gangsters paid to Belgian drug addict Claudy to marry the immigrant Albanian Lorna so she can become an EU citizen for then later divorce him to marry a Russian mobster to become also an EU citizen, for then she can divorce him to marry his Albanian truck driver boyfriend and live for ever after in the for-to-buy snack shop in the EU. End.
It sounds simple and a very good all-winners plan so far. Characters have its own good dream for a better life, they diplomatically agreed and coolly planed to use and sell each other for their own benefit, there’s collecting money out of these playing-with-the-law transactions.

   Fair enough. But well, things get messed up in spite of hardening hearts, I guess, because life wasn’t designed to be lived in a so selfish fashion.

        So, while waiting for the divorce letter, the minute that Lorna gets to her living place she closes every window and lacks herself in her bedroom. Claudy, who looks more like a peaceful predator or like any of the men portrayed in the afored mentioned book sick in a never-ending rotation helpless misery, burning his money-share in drugs, starves for attention and care. Attempting to kick the drug habit he becomes a problem when reaches an edging desperate need. It’s not that he grew affection for her or anything but it’s more that she has what he lacks; a plan, hope, that freshness when she passes by, so healthy and desirable, so alive... and at the same time so selfish, so careless, unsociable and inhuman that at some point you may feel you hate her. She tries to stick to the plan and “helping” is out of the contract (he received €5000 for marry her and will receive the double to divorce her). That will be all.

     In order to speed up the divorce she injures herself to make the case as a violence one.
They live in hell, yes they live in a den. Oh, but theirs it’s a clean 2009 den where minimal furniture and white washed naked walls has nothing to say but that its tenants are not building a home there. Theirs is and interior den where they can’t get out. They force to live a miserable life, victims of themselves. All characters will live a life when they reach their dreams, meanwhile they're just wrecked people that wait to get there.

     Then, out of pity, Lorna offers her help and happens what never should had happened, as expectable.  Lorna's associates kill Claudy with an overdose, not even music for his mourning is heard in the film (although he was very attached to his disc-man). Now gangsters walk in the apartment (“returning to their dark recesses to divide their spoil and plan a new scheme of depredation”?) as if they were owning Lorna’s life and destiny, and going over the diseased’s belongings like vultures on carrion split his personal effects.

        So now, what was the next step? Oh yes... the Russian.
Lorna now in a round table with the gangsters and the Russian hears the instruction for the “meeting settling” arrangements with payed witnesses and everything. But now is Lorna the one who became a problem; out of guilt she believes is pregnant (in spite of negative tests), and at attempting to find out whether the Russian would accept her in this condition or not, he cancels the deal. Furious gangsters and boyfriend redirect Lorna’s money deal back to each other and return her automatically to her homeland Albania. Fugitive, she lives lost, insane and isolated in the woods.
The end.

      Now, I have a question: Where did the plan-for-the-better get spoiled? Wasn't it when the “being human” factor interfered in the equation? What an end, like many immigrants with so good desires that in the way got lost in a maze of selfish wishes for fulfillment. Their inhuman choices show that indeed they loved darkness better than life.

        Of course that it's but our dreams what keep us alive under the most unbearable conditions.
But immigrant or not, selfishness is undoubtedly labyrinthic for the human mind.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Immigration & Integration Mate when 'Finding a Loving Partner' is what it's All About

        In the crest of a global crisis concerning immigration due to massive human migration during the last years, democratic countries question themselves about their national identities. Prospective citizenship-applicant immigrants may not be welcomed in a multicultural country that confronted with sudden large waves of immigrants fears for an alteration in its identity.

         About what makes a country self-image, in an interview with the Director of Communications of mpi (Migration Policy Institute) Mss Michelle Mittelstadt, brought the case of the increasing tensions that are happening in France with its increasing 10% of Muslim population. She explains that when tensions of this type occurs in a country is usually because the changes immigration brings along happened in a relatively short period of time and they haven’t had enough time to be absorbed into the society in a more homogeneous way. “Interactions between native born and immigrant is more a question of good wll and policy makers in terms of mutual understanding” she says.
      Mpi, a non-profit organization based in Washington D.C., works on global immigration issues and on ways of integration, countries immigrant history and its actual components, and the many challenges countries national identity faces displaying global awareness and perspective of human movements. Welcoming the immigrant, the institute seeks to enrich and expand multicultural national identities and citizenship. The web site is sober and simple, yet specific, objective and organized, in contrast with others that I found where I was dazed by an array of irritating pictures, haughty logos and/or assaulting advertisements of all sorts that after intoxicating me while navigating through driving endless sub-pages, contribute to lose one’s initial purpose. There are plenty of articles and news, references, networks and highlighted headers to lead the visitor through its research without making it feel that he/she is strolling by itself through a greedy jungle

         But what does it mean to be Briton? What does identify a French as a French and not other? These are daily interrogatives in the European news.

        In this article of the BBC Britain ‘a racist Society’ questions to Britons about the high levels of “multi-racial society” existent in the actual UK and they directly point to governmental immigration wages as a cause of this obvious result as for its recruiting from the colonies over the years has damaged its national identity. (UK has systematically recruited men from its West and East Indies colonies to serve them as soldiers during the wars, and after 1945 has struggled with their integration to society, it states a sub-page of the source). “Almost two-thirds of whites believe immigrants do not integrate or make a positive contribution to Britain” says the source.

       What I found interesting in this article though, are not the facts of consequences of past political decisions, but a positive light suggested in pro-integration. There is a “widespread support for plans to introduce citizenship and English clsses for people applyng to live in the UK”, adds the source. The notion of the citizenship lessons is to make the immigrant familiar with the Briton way of life and knowing more about history of immigration in Britain and its positive impact to the nation as well.

       But according with Michelle Mittelstad, this is not a novelty for U.S. that had these progrms since the memory remembers. Mss Mittelstadt notes that the British system was taken from the American where the for-to-be citizen had ceremonies of swearing loyalty to the adopted country after taking tests and oaths etc, and that this is viewed in the book on citizen policy issued by mpi last year. She explains that this process is another way of integration function that the governmnt uses in favor to the immigrant. She also adds that this process was actualized by the U.S. government in the last years; the memorized exams of questions and answers was re-done for a more interactive tst where the applicant can attain a more close notion of the real character in history of the country where there is an understanding of some of the funding principals of the United States. Germany, she compares, has actualized consistently its citizenship policy since the 2000. The most significative change is the implementation of 600 hours of German language courses for new comers where much of the fee are paid by the government.

        Is not this an attempt to homogenizer a new national identity? Integrating the immigrant and making it feel part of the new society is as important to the citizen itself as to the society. Work on integration is a great idea regarding massive migration.

        National self-images had changed over the years if we think about the inclusion of the black community into the US identity and the image of the women as well, both contributed to the shape of the national self-image of the what being a US citizen means today. About celebrating Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in its work on Multicultural Questions Jeff-Spinner Halev says “This version of multiculturalism isn’t about celebrating about different cultures. It’s about changing the current conception of citizenship to include the formerly excluded. It’s about celebrating and affirming the diversity of American society” (68)

        What makes a national identity it seems never was a relevant problem for the Unites States since its foundation. Mss Mittelstadt shows a very positive view of the actual times at observing that the U.S. was a good example considering the way it has integrated different cultures and immigrants around the world for such a long period of time, and adds that this is due to the American outcome and spirit and not due to an immigrant integration plan. A large experience in receiving immigrant waves of Chinese, Italians, Irish, Jews and German communities from the 18, 19 hundreds and early 20th century is comparatively important. She argues that the Hispanic wave that is occurring to the States during the last 20 years is not of a different character than those of early centuries. “America has assimilated, has integrated immigrants from vastly different cultures, of a vastly different places and time and each of these points in history there been concerns that these immigrants were not assimilating, that they were sort of existing in their own you know, smaller cultures, that they were only interacting with people of you know, coming from similar places, speaking similar languages (…) over time they’ve become fully in grain in sort of a fabric of American life” she specified. And she concludes that concerning national identity countries evolve from different backgrounds and values to different ways in different paces.

      Nevertheless, there is a high tolerance of mixed-race relationships in favor to “finding a loving partner” compared to the last 10 years in Britain. The survey observes that there were 53% who said they had friends from different racial backgrounds.

       In this Video Nation Amber Gilbert (from London) “I’m from everywhere and I like everywhere” that I’m posting, is an example of how multiculturalism in society challenges countries to work on their migratory reform prioritizing the protection of family relationships rather than in attempting to protect their national identities.
The raising of Amber is a great example of multiculturalism. Cross-cultural accidents or casualties had made the person she is, who feels free of unconscious sociopolitical boundaries to demark her own identity. She has named at least half-dozen of places to explain who she is, but rather likes to say ‘I’m from everywhere’. In other words she is saying ‘I’m part of all this places in different senses, call me as you prefer that would be indistinct to me’. Her identity or who she feels she is, is not founded on any vain external factor such as passports, granted citizenships, ethnical features or cultural behaviors.

In her, Love took a chance through immigration and integration.
And it won.

Monday, December 14, 2009


                            ~ Miscommunication at the Clash of Cultures

       Briefly, Babel (2006) by Gonzalez In~arritu is about four stories, four cultures, four lives connected by the trajectory of a bullet meant to kill jackals but that accidentally injures the wife of an american couple that  happens to be working on restoring its marriage through a visit to Morocco.
She’s taken at a nearby village of goat herders where bleeds while awaits for the only ambulance that will never arrive. In the meantime, the town doctor localizes the bullet in the woman's clavicle, removes it and stitches the wound and all, of course, with no anesthesia.
      The incident, mistaken by the media by a terrorist attack, takes the world wide attention.
      In LA, this couple’s little children are in the care of a 10 year-illegal Mexican immigrant housekeeper who, at the time, urges to attend her only son’s wedding in Mexico. At the kid’s parents delay, she decides to cross the border and take them with her for the weekend. At their return from the wedding, as predicted, are detained by the border patrol of American immigration authorities, but they decide to flee from them and cross the frontier carrying the kids through the barren lands.
     The hunt for the rifle’s owner for part of the American authorities begins with the two teenagers that were challenging potshots on a Moroccan cliff, and ends at a lieutenant ex-hunter and recent widower Japanese whose forlorn deaf daughter is mad about her mother’s suicide. She’s mad about it, but mad all the way to her bones... that decides to get the attention of someone, anybody… even the police investigating the case that buzzers her door. She mistakenly assumes he comes to question her about details of her mother’s death.
     Okay, now to entangle this puzzle; the siblings are localized by the Morrocan police and after crossing fire, one dies and the other, after breaking the riffle against a rock, gives himself to the authorities that realize that the incident, indeed, was accidental.
     The American wife gets a helicopter from the American embassy where is taken to a hospital in a more modern city.
    After abandon the kids in the wilderness and being detained again by the desert patrol, the Mexican housekeeper (Adriana Barraza), is finally deported.
      The Japanese girl … well, she’s forgiven.  See the movie.

    What is relevant about this film concerning my research on immigration, diversity, national identity and integration is just this awkward miscommunication that happens when we change contexts as countries and cultures. But this miscommunication is more than bizarre for its consequences, is frustrating, and takes some disturbing turns at crucial points as the film clearly illustrates.

      For example, the American couple travels to inhospitable places with a mind set on American ways as, per say, the mind set to attempt to solve anything with creditcards and calls as long as they are accessible, but who’s not accessible to this ‘modern’ things? So Brad Pitt who, by the way seems to be wanting to clean an extramarital affair, takes his wife to this trip to enjoy the solitude of a Moroccan landscape just to ‘be alone’. She, like most Americans  can’t relax at any given moment; on a shepherds tent asks for an ice-less DietCoke "because who knows what type of water is in it" seeming to be ready to fight for the minimal reason (nevertheless, with this unfaithful man working on merits). Well, she’s shot on the bus and taken to a nearby primitive village where is laid on a rug at the bus translator’s house. And what’s the obvious thing Brad Pitt would do after leaving Cate Blanchett wounded on the floor? Attempt to stop a ban on the route as if he where in Alabama. But the chauffeur, identifying him as an American, does not offer help. Then, he looks for a doctor, but there’s none available. Then, he manages to the only public telephone in town at a store to call an ambulance; there’s one but no one knows where.
Okay, the thing is crazy enough right here.
All town inhabitants want to know what is going on with this frantic american. But the thing gets more interesting when the frustrated husband decides to call the American embassy to find out that they're too busy to give personalized attention to a single tourist. So, getting really mad demands a helicopter! or someone that take them out of this middle age town. Since he’s an American citizen, expects to be attended without reserves in any given part of the world and put into action his full rights. And he is right, but things simply don’t work that way out of the US, but this is something he’ll learn now, under crucial circumstances.

      A crispy contrast is shown when the pair of teenager goat keepers returning from the shooting training walk as casually on Moroccan graves as if they where part of the natural landscape, which tell us that massive deaths are common there. Then, you think why a single American tourist would require more attention than the Moroccan native than, perhaps, had fought for his land or for a political cause, for his country to be free?
Anyhow, Brad Pitt doesn’t care about this, instead, he would do anything to save his wife but impotent by the circumstances, gets really frustrated when the rest of the tourists, suffocated by the heat of high temperatures, left him yelling in the outdoors, throwing stones at them and making a show for the amusement of the gathering shepherds. And we too would get so frustrated in his place, since we’re very much used to this western style of living where no matter the importance, we’ll most likely get what we want, than when we’re out of this in a stressing situation, we just can’t cope with reality. (see the trailer in full screen here)

     This is a situation that all immigrant goes through; when changing contexts, change values and priorities as well; the environment defines our behavior.

     A reverse situation lives the housekeeper when coming back from Mexico and is being detained by the border patrol, and taken to the immigration office to be deported. She, in her mind setting, can’t understand how after taking care of this kids for 10 years is now forbidden of seeing them. I think is crazy enough the fact that she took them out of the country without the parent’s consent to start with, but for her it was a so natural fact just like ‘I’m going right there to my son’s and I’ll come back’. But things don’t work this way out of her country either. After fleeing the immigration agents at the border, she walks with the kids through the desert during all night and all day until almost sundown without water (?!) Isn’t she as crazy, isolated, frustrated and misunderstood as Brad Pitt in Morocco and Chieko, the Japaneese?

      So happens with the heartbreaking story of the Japanese girl who after her mother suicide, claims in vain for her father’s attention and like unleashed, looks for it around city boys gathered in crowded Tokyo. Since she is as mute and deaf as a tomb, is as isolated as the other characters in the story; she doesn’t leave town still, can't belong to it as we see in the sequence at the disco where she decodes the loud music just as intelligible dancing laser lights and subtle beats on her body. So, mute, deaf and mad, doesn't really know how to attain things in the real word. Therefore, thinking rather of missing out and being led by her constructed idea of how she thinks things work, she moves awkwardly and out of context. Like the other characters, she has decided to get what she wants and will do as much as Brad Pitt and the housekeeper to get it.

     There’s a conflict of identities throughout the entire film, characters out of their familial places behave incomprehensibly and lost.
      The fact of changing cultures, doesn’t necessarily mean that automatically we will behave according to the hosting social order. And not only takes time to adapt, as we see in the case of the housekeeper, that she never understood the weight of her thinking under the American law in spite of years of residence. She, as the other characters, won’t realize it either until facts can’t be reversed.

        In terms of identities, one of the richest and most impressive scenes of the film is undoubtedly the border crossing to Mexico. (click here to see it in full screen) Where white crosses along the border wall remit us to the white stone graves where the teenager Moroccans walk on in the other part or the world. The rhythmic music, vivid city, religious images and colors show a definite contrast with the American , Moroccan and Japanese life-style.

      In the film, the use of color is important since it quickly associates with narrative elements as white is associated with purity and death or any combination of both meanings, as the crosses at the Mexican border, Cate Blanchett’s blouse that will be stained with blood, the Moroccan graves, Chieko’s outfit and the wedding dress.
      Greens that usually resembles life is scarce. In stead the film is rich in a wide hue of brilliant reads that remit us to intense experiences as ecstasy, suffering and blood, as the housekeeper’s festive dress that will wear while crossing the desert, flaring Mexican flags, blood on the Moroccan teenager’s body and in Cate’s neck, as in Japan’s many city lights related to ecstasy, death and suicide as well.
      Desert and earthly colors are associated with shame, solitude and misery, as the Moroccan cliffs and the Mexican desert, Brad’s clothes and the Japanese nude body.
     Blue refers to authority, law and order, like in the border patrol, immigration, the Moroccan police, American detectives and Japanese police.

        But Babel is also a beautiful story of desperation, mercy, purge and redemption where love is only canalized through compassion and forgiveness.

     The American couple restores their marriage, the housekeeper recoups the chance of being well with the law by returning to her country, the Moroccan boy that shot the tourists who also had secrets with family members, gives himself to the police, as a way to be in good terms with life and Chieko, receiving compassion from one of the investigators, gets peace with her father's relationship.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Intro to Global Migration.

“Man born free, and wherever he is in chains” 
(Rousseau, 1762)

       Hello, I’m a CUNYBA student exploring global migration issues for my FIQWS course.
     In response to lessen so much tension and in an effort to enlighten so much uncertainties I found on the matter of actual global migration I’m publishing this interactive web blog with my researches and thoughts where any furtive visitor can have a say by posting a comment.
    While building this public blog for my presentation, I was thinking in welcoming and making feel comfortable a particular type of cyber-viewer; not just the proficient American tech and beyond e-surfer, but the curious one interested on contributing to improve the means of our human condition.
     In my research, I’ve been touched by the topic from the beginning; since I’m just one of the hundreds of Italian descendants born in Argentina that widely spread throughout the world after fleeing one of the greatest country’s economic collapses, I became to be one of the million of United States’ immigrants myself. I have dear friends and relatives in different points of the Earth divided by political boundaries and non-contemplative immigration policies that, while await for its appointed turn to be reformed, set us apart for 10 long years and counting.
       The experiences of the immigrant that tries to open its way through a foreign culture is as rich and unique as wonderful and aching, where cultural disconnection, identity misconception and melancholy plague the days. Looking forward I realized that most people conforming the actual world, and backwards through generations, have gone through the same experiences to populate the globe and so structured the breathtaking new forms of cultures that we appreciate to day.

      When I first saw this video “Happy People Dancing on Planet Earth” (click here to see full screen), that actually one of my brothers sent me from Madrid to, in a way, tell me that he missed me, I felt overwhelmed by the strength in which, defying human diversity, geographical and temporal distances, it still communicates a fresh message of human common bonds such as happiness and joy.
       What else is it actively saying? It says that the superiority of the human race allowed it to populated all the earth, speaks about the incredible ability humans have to modify its natural environment building spectacular structures like bridges, tunnels, towers, temples and cities to comfortably live in it, as the faculty to create and find ways of transportation (as we see bicycles, trains, cars, motorcycles, ships, airplains and cammels!), as that conquered space and reigned under sea, that is rich in diversity and that by it, it accepts different agreements with the existing social order (as we notably see through India's, Papua's and Fiji island's dances), that its administrations are going through different stages (like the demilitarized zone in Korea). That cultures have different ways to identify themselves (showed by the way they dress like FIFA's soccer shirts, saris and by their background as the Panama Canal, Eiffel Tower, the Sydney Museum, Tenochtitlan Temple, etc), that humans settled where they found a factual way of life in indistinct geographical accidents (as plains, mountains, forest, jungles, shores and fjords etc), that they evolved differently due to different life conditions, that they posses rich variety of hue characters and moods (displayed by the color of their clothes), that they express happiness through different dances (like traditional dances such as the German 'aiho', the choreographed Indian, and the performed scream Japanese martial-art, etc.) and that they went through uneven histories that shaped their culture (appreciated by the background they picked to dance like Caminito Street in Buenos Aires). There's a big conversation here and it is the overall sense of unity given by the common dance that express freedom and solidarity transcending human boundaries. The social language used here is the physical primitive that always has communicated just what it needed to communicate since beginning of times to speak about well-being.

        I watched this video hundreds of times, and every time I wonder about the vicissitudes that generations have gone through and the countless of factors that influenced events in certain ways to give shape to the cultures of the many countries that are shown here that, linked by the simplicity of a dance, have been forged by the traumatic and restless human diaspora. And that after all humans have gonne through, still find capricious ways to not let go primitive habits of making some submissive to others.
         And I think about how many people to day are impeded of their dearests because of human cruelties as such unfitted laws that we impose to one another.
      From a spatial view of the planet Earth you surely wouldn’t notice these human boundaries but the brilliance of an only sun rising from the horizon giving us life to all of us.

     I'm a dreamer, and this blog is my place where I explore ways to contribute to build a more compassionate world.

                                                                                                ... Come along!

Immigration: Diversity & Integration

       Global migrations, whether be caused by civil war or repression, religious or political persecution, poverty, economic deficits or family reunification, are meant for a better life.

       The true relevance of the debate of the actual national identity is placed in the limitations immigrants face when they do not qualify to be granted the citizenship of the adopted country.The acceptance and inclusion of immigrants into the foreign community is crucial nor only for their personal success but for the health and enrichment of emerging cultures of cosmopolitan societies.

       Contemporary migration makes nations more culturally and ethnically diverse, if modifying their national identity, yet evolves to a new form. By means of preserving traditional standards of citizenship as part of national patrimony, conservative supporters of democratic governments take actions such as limiting the freedom of movements, postponing the updating of immigrant status or, simply denying citizenship to foreign-born children and the like, discouraging so massive immigration. The openness to multiculturalism of The Mother of Exiles that made the United States famous is much put into question at examining the treats and policies it has nowadays with its actual immigrants.

        In this weblog related themes of this issues will be discussed with a passionate perspective towards building a better, more humane world.